Q: How long have you been involved with AFCM?
Helmut Abt: More than 30 years. Fred Chaffee, a longtime AFCM vice president, got me involved— I was his Ph.D. thesis advisor and I introduced him to much music.
Q: What is your current role on the Board?
HA: I have been the Recording Secretary for nearly 30 years, following Ed Read.
Q: Tell us about the role music plays in your life.
HA: Much. I listen to music when I am not writing, mostly CDs.
Q: Did you play an instrument or perform as a child?
HA: Piano before I was 15; after that we did not have one.
Q: How did you first become interested in the chamber music form?
HA: While I was a grad student at Caltech, the university had Hollywood musicians on Sunday evenings in a lounge—the best.
Q: What other kinds of music do you enjoy?
HA: Symphonic, opera, Oriental (Chinese opera, Japanese, erhu, gucheng), but not jazz, popular music, or showtunes.
Q: What do you do when you’re not working on AFCM?
HA: Since officially retiring from 41 years on the Kitt Peak staff, I do astronomical research every day and publish five to six papers per year.
Q: Your interests outside of chamber music?
HA: I read a lot (25 books per year) and travel a lot (about 60 trips abroad). I just returned from two weeks in China (to give talks) and Tibet.
Q: What is a little-known fact about chamber music?
HA: That there are many great little-known composers.
Q: Your favorite piece of chamber music?
HA: Shostakovich String Quartet No. 3.
Q: Your favorite book?
HA: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson or The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.